Scent’imental Journey

By Karrie Osborn

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, April/May 2004.

For some, it’s the smell of bedlinens dried on a clothesline. For others, it’s the whispery scent of fresh rain. For me, it’s the delicate fragrance of rose. There’s no scent that evokes emotional memories for me like the sweet petaled rose.

One breath of this botanical, be it the essential oil or the flower itself, takes me back to my childhood. For a brief moment I’m in my grandmother’s nurturing arms, smelling the sweetness of rose on her skin. It makes me feel warm, safe, and loved. As I look back to those memories, I don’t know if it was her perfume, body lotion, the flowers from her garden, or something else that created the aroma, but it’s a powerful scent memory that makes me stop and briefly close my eyes whenever I am in the presence of this Queen of Flowers.

It took me many years and a lifetime of education to understand there’s more to the connection between this scent and memory than happenstance. In fact, rose is one of the most utilized and powerful allies in the health medium known as aromatherapy, and many believe it may be the first flower from which an essential oil was distilled.1 And while it is but one of the nearly 3,000 essential oils in the global aromatherapy family, it is one of the most important when it comes to healthcare for women.

For instance, did you know that rose oil is said to have a significant healing effect on the uterus and enhances a women’s ability to conceive? It is used to aid in regulating menstruation and ovulation, as well as fight depression and anxiety. Its benefits also include a host of applications in skin care, which is why rose oil can often be found in many top-end skin products.

So how does rose, or any other of the several hundred essential oils in common use today, pertain to you or your practice?

Aromatherapy is a natural complement to massage. Its simplicity allows for essential oils to be incorporated in a variety of ways — dispersed in the air through diffusers, sprinkled on the table or face cradle linens, or added to the massage oil. Many practitioners have found the combination of hands-on work and essential oils creates a valuable partnership of healing for the body.

We delve into that partnership in this issue with an array of articles illustrating the benefits of aromatherapy for you and your clients. Longtime aromatherapist and author Éva-Marie Lind-Shiveley gets us started with an overview of this historical therapy and calls for its adaptation in a multisensory world. Look for the recipes of the special oil blends she’s created just for Massage & Bodywork readers.

The partnering of acupressure and aromatherapy is where author Gabriel Mojay takes us next with his interesting article on Oriental applications, and practitioner and author Mary Kathleen Rose offers both the cautions to be taken when using essential oils and a peek at natural scent therapy.

We round out this excursion into aromatherapy with our Somatic Research and Lifespans columns, which explore the research associated with aromatherapy and using essential oils with children, respectively.

It’s important to remember as you waft through these articles that aromatherapy, while simple in nature, is a modality not to be taken lightly. Essential oils can be very powerful and need to be administered by someone who holds the wisdom and respect to use them properly. Before adding this complementary therapy to your repertoire, understand it and its benefits.

Aromatherapy is truly a symphony for the nose. Jasmine offers the lyrical softness of the flute. Frankincense brings in the strength and balance of the bass drum. Peppermint is the crystalline moment of the crashing cymbal. And chamomile is the seduction of the cello. Aah. But my symphony may not be yours, and yours may not be mine. And that is part of the beauty of this ancient health modality. The oils understand that every recipient of aromatherapy is unique. Listen to them and see what symphonic health plan they help you create for your clients.